A good Valentine’s Day

I honestly can’t remember the last time I looked forward to Valentine’s Day, if I ever looked forward to it at all. I can’t imagine there was ever a time, but I have to admit that even my somewhat freakishly long memory develops gaps and loses snippets every now and then.

For as along as I can remember, I never liked Valentine’s Day. In grade school, I was forced by concentration camp-like authority, to give Valentine cards to everyone in the class. Even the guys. I never liked this idea. I had a couple of friends, to be sure, but these were *girls*, and I never hung out with them.

Over the years, my loathing of the particular day changed. Now there weren’t any rules … but there were no women in my life outside of family and a couple of friends. While most of the other guys enjoyed a day of close togetherness with a significant other, I wallowed in my own self-misery.

So imagine this year, when after a couple of months of “power dating”, I realize that for the first time in memory, I not only acknowledged that Valentine’s Day was coming up, but I was actually looking forward to it!

By now, you’ve probably figured out that there was someone whom I was interested in taking out that night — an object of my affections. In that, you are correct. But the trick here is to realize that despite being in a position of dating four women (Kristen, Alex, Simone, and Tanis), there was only one woman I was even remotely interested in taking out.

Luckily for me, Kristen ended up with a free evening.Thus I started the plan to experience the first good Valentine’s day in possibly my entire life.

It’s only taken 31 years…

I woke up a little later than planned for a Saturday, but not too late. All that was going to happen was missing going to the gym — annoying, yes, but not the end of the world. First order of business: create the “to do” list. On it were: car wash, hair cut, wine, strawberries, presents, rose, and mailing out a pair of cheques that had to be cashed.

Many of these little tasks were taken care of at the same time. I went down to the Eaton Centre downtown to get my hair cut at a barber shop I knew of (repeated attempts to get my hair cut at the office had all failed due to one reason or another). Luckily, the parking garage offered a car detailing service, which — lucky me! — was open and operational.

The haircut was, a little surprisingly, quite an experience. The cool weather (and a freakishly weird fog the night before) had kept the pedestrian traffic downtown quite light, leaving the barber and I to have quite a lengthy conversation. It was a good one for me, as the barber had a few good ideas for things Kristen and I could do that night. Leave it to a woman to give you the inside scoop when you didn’t even realize you needed it.

Presents, wine, fresh haircut, and uber-clean car in hand, I returned home to finish the remainder of my errands, including getting some strawberries from Safeway, and double-dipping them in chocolate.

Note to self: I need to find a way to soften the chocolate. It was a little difficult to eat like that.

By about 15:00, I was mostly done. Except for a load of laundry I needed, as I realized with a bit of a shock that I had no clean underwear. Heaven forbid you should go out on Valentine’s Day with anything less than fresh-smelling undies.

I arrived at Kristen’s just after 17:00, where we hung out for a few moments, exchanging presents. I had expected a one-way exchange, but was pleasantly surprised to receive a heart-shaped box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates — one of my close favourites.

And so we were off to Catch Restaurant. I’ve been there almost a little too often in the last few months. But admitedly, I don’t mind too much. It’s a bit pricey, yes, but in the end, it’s all about the experience, and the amazing food. Luckily, Kristen had never been in the dining room before, or experienced the sheer joy of exquisite cuisine.

Dinner was a pseudo-set menu. You had a choice of one of four appetizers, a bowl of soup, a choice of one of three entrees, followed by a custom dessert — themed white for women, and dark for men. The idea, of course, to share the experience.

The experience even went to far as to include an unusual wine that I’d never had before: a Vignonier. This peculiar vintage is from France, and has one of the most subtle flavours for a wine that I’ve ever experienced. Imagine the fullness of a cabernet sauvignon, but dial down the volume by about 60%. It’s not watered down, just not as bold. I was a little skeptical, and at first wasn’t even sure that the choice was correct. But after a few sips, I really began to understand the appeal of it.

Following our (fairly expensive, but well-appreciated) meal, we escaped to explore the other activities of the night. This led us down the street to Murrietta’s, one of Calgary’s primiere night spots.

If you want to go someplace after your meals, kick back with a good drink and maybe experience some outstanding music, this is the place you go. The live bands that frequent Murrietta’s make the sometimes-pricey drinks much more affordable.

We took seats along the west wall, a few tables away from the stage. It was an ideal location to engage in conversations, martinis, and some crowd-watching.

The conversation was our usual light repertoire of miscellany, peppered with humourous anecdotes and observations, not really amounting to anything specific.

The martinis, though a little more expensive than at other places, were quite tasty. Kristen had two chocolate martinis, while I started off with a caramel apple, followed by a chocolate. Both were very delish.

Crowd watching became our primary habit. There were some interesting people all evening. While neither Kristen or myself were in our finest, we were far more than just passable. Many of the patrons at Catch looked little more than fresh off the oil derrick with a spin through the laundry cycle. Murrietta’s wasn’t any better.

One particular happy couple caught our attention, specifically the male. He had a most unusual haircut that Kristen and I could only pass off as the result of a dare or a lost bet. The back of his head resembled … well, a pineapple. He looked right out of Archie and Jughead comics. It was peculiar to say the least.

The couple more than made up for the haircut in their ability to dance. It was swing-style, though not too exaggerated. The band, playing a jazzy kind of blues, seemed more than happy to endulge the couple by extending their tunes to quite a degree so that they would have more time to show their skills. Kristen and I, self-professed anti-dancers, both commented that we’d like to learn how to dance like that.

Yes. Me.

We left Murrietta’s after a while and headed back to Kristen’s. There, I pulled out the strawberries and a bottle of nicely-chilled icewine. We sipped and nibbled, reading questions from Mindtrap to each other, often stumbling on some of the questions (they aren’t always easy).

The game went until it became “Strip Mindtrap”.

And at that, dear reader, I must let you go. There are just some things that I will not write about.

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